Carnival of the April Fools

The picture I stole from Jonathan and he stole from New Biscuit (I don't know if they stole it or what...)

Jonathan my fellow ξἐνος and fellow Kiwi has posted the April (Fool’s/Fools) Biblical Studies Carnival. As is usual for these carnivals there is plenty of good solid stuff to think about and the required monthly pseud-archaeological controversy is well summed up in the linked posts. As one expects from Jonathan there is also plenty of hilarious humour. All in all a fine job and a useful contribution :)

I could not resist stealing just one illustration…

Gen 1-11 and a new (to me) blog

Jim West mentioned a new (to me) Olt Testament blog Matthieu Richelle. Among Mattieu’s posts is an English abstract The Literary Structure of Genesis 1-11 of an interesting paper (in French) on the structure of Gen 1-11:

Mattieu Richelle, “La structure littéraire de l’Histoire Primitive (Gn 1.1-11.26) dans son état final”, BN 151 (2011) 3-22.

Since I am just reaching Gen 3 in the course I am teaching this is either brilliant of terrible timing. Brilliant since I can point my students to Richelle’s ideas, terrible because I will hardly have time to read the article before they have assimilated the abstract ;)

The Facts of the Matter

Facts , truth, respect...

Do not thump the book of G’Quan. It is disrespectful.

Many discussions around the Bible founder on the shoals of factual accuracy. The “facts of the matter”, and claims that they are either accurately or inaccurately reported, generate much heat (and for those who like good knock down arguments)1 delight. This should not surprise us, for since the Enlightenment, we have worshiped “facts”.

Indeed respect for the facts has served us well. Truth is found when the facts are reported and marshaled into arguments accurately.

Yet, always, but especially in matters of relationship, there is another sort of truth. Faithfulness too can be truth. Characters in fiction can act in ways which ring true to their nature. (We have discovered that nature elsewhere in the story or the corpus.) They must also be true to the relevant aspects of the world as we know it. (Though, willing suspension of disbelief plays a role in all poetics.) We say the story is “true” when characters are true and the relationship to the real our world is true. Likewise all good fictions communicate other things. When the attitudes and elements of worldview “fit” with (i.e. are faithful to) what we believe, we say the story is true. Similarly, in the ancient world,2 when an ambassador spoke a message that represented faithfully what his lord would have intended, his words were true. This would have been so even if the message was in fact contradicted by a written communication that spoke differently – if the lord would indeed have spoken differently in the changed circumstances.

To expect the Bible to conform to the first sort of truth, in a world which lived by the second, is mere fundamentalism (a thoroughly modern system).

Of course, to interpret a text which seeks to be faithful requires more skill and judgement than to interpret one which aims at the facts. And isn’t it interesting how often “the facts” serve to support and sustain the status quo?3

Amanda at Cheese-Wearing Theology has posted this month’s Biblical Studies Carnival, in what ways is the “world” (of bibliobloggery) it presents true?

  1. What H. Dumpty described as “glory”. []
  2. Before modern technologies made swift or even almost instant communication at a distance possible. []
  3. At least until the pressure for change becomes almost irresistible, at which point somehow those flighty facts change sides. []

Commenting experiment

I have installed a new plugin, which claims to make commenting and sharing material much easier and more flexible. It enables people to highlight part of the text of a post and to comment on that. This might enable more nuanced discussion for a complex post – I’m thinking here of using this as a replacement for the rather clunky system at Digress It that I am currently using for Not Only a Father. Which has not been getting the traffic or the discussion I had hoped for.

The new system also claims to make sharing a post easier on Facebook or Twitter. We’ll see!

So if you want to try it, you could start by playing on this post, just highlight a word or phrase and away we go :)

The afterlife of the words

Facebook never (despite all its failings) ceases to surprise and delight. About a year after the post Kindle versus spindle? went to the electronic home of dead ephemal blog posts, discussion has revived on Facebook. You can join in either there or here, or elsewhere!

Ah, the joy of words :)

Promoting a podcast

Podcast bear by blogefl

Promoting a blog is easy, no need to list it in directories, just post a few interesting posts, and as with the most publishable academic articles make sure they “engage” with others (in blogging this may mean being rude, in academia proper fawning admiration is often better) and presto in a few weeks or months you are on your way with a growing readership.

Not so with Podcasts :(

Take Mark Goodacre’s excellent NT Pod. Mark is a fine scholar, teaching at a prestigious University, he’s an all-time nice guy, and famous in Biblical Studies online as the pioneer gateway keeper of the NT Gateway. His podcast is liked by 405 people on Facebook, and Twitted by many, yet it is sitting down in doldrums on Alexa, miles from the top 50. Podcasts are hard to promote…

First Google cannot, yet, index audio, so the “content” that draws the spiders is only that “teaser” you knock off at the last minute as you post the carefully crafted audio. Actually in terms of search engines it would be better to craft the few sentences of the teaser, and let the audio suck, it’s not “content” but text that is king of the search world.

Links, bloggers simply do NOT link to podcasts (unless you prod them really hard, I have not tried bribery, it might work… but is probably unethical) bloggers live in a world of blogs. Therefore they will link to your blog post that itself links to your podcast, but usually will fail to link to the real thing :( The only answer here is shameless self-promotion. So when the entertaining and much-commented How Jim West Really Knows So Much About Hell appeared it at first had a link to an earlier post here, but no link to the real content on 5 Minute Bible: Universalism, or Not? Part One: Jonah but I am determined1 so I posted a comment complaining, and presto a precious link :)

Yes, to promote a podcast you MUST trawl the web for podcast directories and submit your site to them, without that no one will find you except your children and cousins, or if you are a teacher your students ;)

So, this is an appeal to YOU, if you have a blog or other web presence please link to AT LEAST one podcast this week :)

PS: Having mentioned the problems of promoting podcasts, I should do my bit by mentionning other related podcasts here. In particular one I have not linked to before: The [ad hoc] Christianity Podcast a weekly show on theological and ethical issues facing the Christian community “non-obnoxious” and laid back. With Travis Jacobs, Steve Douglas, and Matthew Raymer.

  1. You do know that this is an irregular verb don’t you: I am determined, you are stubborn, s/he is pig-headed! []

Reformation rhetoric lives!

Photo by youngthousands

Gavin at Otagosh, always a stimulating read, has a fine piece, Taking a Punt on Rob Bell, on the Rob Bell fuss. As he notes few people round here will even recognise the name, let alone the fuss, but certain more northerly American bibliobloggers certainly seemed to have twisted undergarments over the book before its publication.

Gavin’s rhetoric is nicely Reformation is style and (almost) scatology, while his rhetoric is positively Anabaptist. I love it :) With defenders like this that Bell character must have something going for him!

Of course someday the book will appear, then all the bloggers will go quiet, except Hobbins who will have read it and sixteen more learned tomes and three medieval Jewish authorities before the ink is dry. Meanwhile Jim West ought to love Gavin’s post, ir’s almost Zwinglian in tone, though since it’s Anabaptist in sentiment he also may foam at the mouth ;) I can’t wait… let’s have photos please Jim!

Another month…

Well, another month is past, in the passing Sansblogue has completed seven years. So do I have the seven year itch that causes so many bloggers to “temporarily” cease blogging (either really temporarily or really for ever)? Not a bit of it, while I have readers, and (I hope) something worthwhile to say I’ll continue to blog.

Another month is past, and so naturally there are rankings. I’m happy that I again have two works in the top fifty, this blog and what I think is still the only biblical studies podcast to make the top fifty. How come podcasts are so much less “popular” than blogs? I’d have thought that Goodacre’s excellent NT Pod ought to have a regular top fifty slot… you are all missing something good!

On the subject of something good, the indefatigable Jim West has produced an excellent and entertaining (at difficult juggling act to manage both :) carnival, so if you have a few hours on your hands, or just want an idea of what was going on in January that you missed (because you were on your summer hols, or snowed in at home – depending on whether you live in the right or wrong hemisphere) do head on over to Jim’s The January 2011 Biblical Studies Carnival.

Different strokes, blogging and podcasting

Average Sansblogue reader (from a photo "Old Man and Ferret" by fakelvis Lloyd Morgan)

I assumed, largely because much the same people comment on my blog (here) and my short biblical studies podcasts, that the audience for both sites was much the same. The 5 minute audio slots are less popular, with only 5-600 visitors a day, while this blog (even in this marking season when posts are few in number) gets about 1,000. The fascinating thing though is that these two sites, by the same author, on pretty much the same topic (though the blog is less focused on study of the Bible with more on digital life, scholarship and even cooking, while the podcasts almost always focus each on a particular Bible text) have quite different audiences!

Alexa reveals that Sansblogue:

Based on internet averages, is visited more frequently by males who are over 65 years old, have children and are graduate school educated.

While 5 Minute Bible:

Based on internet averages, is visited more frequently by males who are in the age range 25-34, are graduate school educated and browse this site from work.

Potential 5 Minute Bible listeners (from photo by Ed Yourdon)

So, the blog attracts the older crowd (many of you, apparently even more ancient than I am ;) while the podcast has a younger audience. Perhaps the format explains that, you see few old fogies (like you and me – or at least you, since the oracle tells me you are mainly older than I) with MP3 players, but they are ubiquitous among the young.

More difficult to explain is the gender imbalance, 5 Minute Bible only has a small imbalance, while Sansblogue is much favoured by grumpy old men…

Maybe I should give up blogging and put my energies into Podcasting, before you all die off ;) or better still I suspect vidcasting, since the really hip and really young use iPhones or their Android non-clones. The trouble is if I vidcast it would be easier for all those bright young things to spot that I’m not anywhere near their demographic and flood to other trendier Bible sites ;)

Sausages and more at the Oktoberfest

Jonathan was the host of this month’s Biblical Studies Carnival, he’s calling it Oktoberfest, which in view of the obsession of the SBL and biblical studies bloggers with sausages this month seems, as they say, not inappropriate. I just wonder why there was no beer :(

Do take a look, in all the fun of the carnival you are bound to find a new (to you) blog or six to subscribe to…